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Ph.D. in English

Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program trains students to be successful scholars and teachers of literature and of writing and rhetoric. The program begins with an immersion in coursework, designed to introduce the discipline at a broad level and to lay the ground for avenues of individual research. The Comprehensive Exam solidifies the student’s grounding in three fields of study linked to that which the student intends to specialize. The dissertation, completed under the close supervision of both the dissertation director and the dissertation committee, is an original research project that stands as the student’s entry into the field of professional scholarship.

In addition to the formal curriculum, the department offers a range of opportunities to introduce students to new scholarship in English, including the Barrs lecture series. We hold frequent workshops on various aspects of graduate study and professionalization, and students are involved in a plethora of hands-on research opportunities, including the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, the Early Caribbean Digital Archive, Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive, and The Women Writers Project. Many students are also involved with 826 Boston, where they have gained experience in teaching and community engagement.

Program Highlights

Graduates of Ph.D. program are able to:


Students entering with the B.A. or equivalent

The core curriculum consists of 48 semester hours of coursework, including ENGL 5103 Proseminar, ENGL 7392 Writing and the Teaching of Writing, and courses in the following categories: Theories and Methods, Writing and Rhetoric, and Literary Periods. Visit the Registrar’s catalog for more details.

Students entering with the M.A. or equivalent

The core curriculum consists of 24 semester hours of coursework, including ENGL 5103 Proseminar, and ENGL 7392 Writing and the Teaching of Writing. Visit the Registrar’s catalog for more details.

Graduate Certificates

The Graduate Program in English offers students enrolled in any of its degree programs the option to complete graduate certificates in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and in Digital Humanities.

Ph.D. Milestones

Please see the Ph.D. Guide for more information about coursework, language requirements, annual reviews, Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations, and Dissertation.


Academic advising is a critical part of a student’s experience in the graduate program. New students are assigned faculty advisors and are welcome to subsequently change advisors as they fine-tune their academic and career objectives. Advising covers substantive questions in the student’s field of study as well as long-term academic and career planning. Students are strongly urged to speak to an advisor before registering for courses each semester.

Graduate Student Teaching

Ph.D. students usually work as Writing Center Consultants their first year in the program and in each semester thereafter teach one section of either First-Year Writing or Advanced Writing in the Disciplines, both required undergraduate courses that fulfill Northeastern’s Writing Requirement. The Writing Program supports Ph.D. student instructors with mentoring pairs, three annual workshops, teaching networks, and informal inquiry groups. For more information on the Writing Program, see northeastern.edu/writing/.

Ph.D. Placement

We are committed to providing students with the best preparation and support as they pursue their job searches. Our dedicated Placement Director works with students on the preparation of their academic job materials, strategies for going on the market, and the interview process. Our programs’ many extracurricular offerings also prepare students well for alt-ac careers.

Graduates of our Ph.D. program in the past six years have found tenure-track faculty employment at Auburn University, Oberlin College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Johnson and Wales University, Mercy College, Bristol Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Diablo Valley College, Keuka College, Rowan College, and University of Central Oklahoma. Recent graduates have also found teaching positions at University of Virginia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown University, University of Nevada-Reno, Butte College, Northeastern University, Wheelock College, Lasell College, American University at Dubai, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Loyola University Chicago, Mount Ida College, Trinity College, Keuka College, United States Coast Guard Academy, and University of Southern California at Dornsife.

Other recent employment outcomes include Assistant Director and Graduate Program Director at Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities; Director of Digital Scholarship, Critical Making, and Digital Collections Management at Bryn Mawr; Director of Advancement Communications at Penn Arts and Sciences; and Director of the Writing Center at The Ohio State University.

PhD Student Pathway

As a tenure-track Assistant Professor of English at Auburn University, Dr. Charles “Charlie” Lesh (Ph.D. ’16) brings his multifaceted experience from Northeastern University into classrooms, meeting rooms, and community spaces. He uses his scholarly and administrative skills, as well as his teaching experience, to develop collaborative relationships with individuals across disciplines and across colleges.

Charlie’s groundbreaking critical ethnography study of Boston graffiti writing continues to generate interest and excitement in the composition and rhetoric community. He received Honorable Mention for the 2017 CCCC James Berlin Memorial Outstanding Dissertation Award for his dissertation, and he is currently preparing a book proposal.

View Charlie's PhD Pathway